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House Sitting Etiquette - What’s Expected?

House sitting etiquette is based on a few often unspoken rules which are based on mutual respect for both parties’ privacy, safety and comfort.


The biggest stumbling block for many homeowners is the fear of their privacy being invaded. ‘Will the sitter go through my stuff while I am away?’ is a common question. Reality is most sitters would not dream of going through a person’s private possessions unless they have to in an emergency i.e. have to find the pets medical details before a visit to the vet.

In fact most sitters prefer that anything of a personal nature or high financial or emotional value be stored in a separate room, cupboard or safe. That way they can’t come across anything accidentally while trying to find the iron or a rolling pin.

The homeowner also needs to protect the sitter’s privacy. For instance having a friend drop by unannounced can be seen as an invasion of the sitter’s privacy.

Interior surveillance cameras can be causes for concern too. Some sitters are fine with security cameras and others are not. Not because they have anything to hide, but simply because they feel it is an invasion of their privacy. If there is to be an active interior surveillance system the homeowner must disclose this on their sitter wanted ad or at the very least during the interview.


Safety and Security:

If there are any potential security issues with the area (or the home) the owners should disclose this with the sitters before an agreement is reached. Owners should also thoroughly brief sitters on lock up procedures and any security systems.
The homeowner can help assure the sitters safety by thoroughly briefing them on any potential hazards in the home, the garden and on the dogs walking routes. This includes any hazardous chemicals, lose or uneven steps, poisonous plants etc.

Sitters as strangers to the home and area are usually more diligent than the owners when it comes to locking up the home when leaving or retiring for the evening.
Most sitters also make a point of not telling strangers or random phone callers that the owners are away, they usually say that ‘they are not at home and can they take a message’.


The homeowner wants the sitters to be comfortable and they in turn want the owners to be comfortable with them. So here are a few tips to make the experience comfortable for all parties.

Owners prepare for your sitter as if you are having a welcome guest and have a clean comfortable room ready for them and their belongings.

Sitters have a bit more of a challenge as they have to think not only about their comfort when they arrive at a new place, but also about maintaining the homeowners comfort level with them.

The easiest way to build and maintain that comfort level is by staying in touch. Correct etiquette for both parties is to respond promptly and honestly to any communication before, during and after an assignment.

Discuss the House Rules:

Having clearly defined house rules allows both owner and sitter a greater level of comfort with the arrangement. These cover things like what can be used in the way of dishes, use of consumable and food supplies and the visitor policy.

Knowing not to use grannies china in the corner cupboard is invaluable, as it means there is no risk of accidental damage.

Knowing what can and cannot be used food wise also helps eliminate problems, as nothing is left to rot in the fridge and the owners hard to find spices are still there when they return.

The visitor policy applies to both parties, most sitters are unlikely to have visitors, however they may want to invite people over, especially if they are in a familiar area. If they know the rules in advance they will not inadvertently step ‘out of bounds’.
An example of how this applies to the owners is where the owner’s friends turn up unannounced to use the pool. If this is expected no problem, if not it is an invasion of the sitters privacy.

Keep Your Word:

  • For homeowners: This means providing your sitters with a comfortable place to live in exchange for them taking care of your home and loved ones. It also means sticking to any additional agreements such as letting them drive your car or picking them up from the station/airport.
  • For sitters: This means providing the services agreed upon, such as caring for the pets, the garden etc. This also means obeying the house rules and respecting the homeowner’s property.

Invested Time & Money:

Finally and most important of all, both parties need to understand that time and money have been invested in advance of the assignment. Therefore cancelling a sit at last minute or at short notice is not acceptable by either party. The owner could be left in the lurch with no one to care for their home and pets and the sitter who has paid to get there, now has to find accommodation.

Emergencies can and do happen, but both parties have to be willing to work towards a mutually acceptable compromise.

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